Republished from August 10 Vermont Standard newsletter
The federal court in Vermont has agreed to an expedited hearing on a preliminary injunction request sought by longtime varsity snowboard coach and founder of the team at Woodstock Union High School in his unlawful discharge lawsuit against the school district and others.
The hearing is planned for 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 23 in Burlington before U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss.
Ousted coach David J. Bloch maintains he was unfairly fired because he joined in a brief private, non-disruptive discussion started by two of his athletes on Feb. 8 about a transgender student competing on behalf of another nearby school, according to federal court records.
“Coach Bloch’s team was to compete against a team from another school district that had a male snowboarder who identifies as a female and competes in the female division,” the lawsuit stated.
School Superintendent Sherry Sousa, who fired him the following day; the Windsor Central Supervisory Union (WCSU) School Board; Jay Nichols, executive director of the Vermont Principals’ Association; and Heather Bouchey, interim secretary of the Vermont Agency of Education are named as defendants in the civil rights lawsuit filed last month. While the seven-town WCSU is named as a defendant, the district changed its name to the Mountain Views Supervisory Union on July 1.
The defendants have petitioned the federal court to extend the deadline for filing their respective written responses. They noted Bloch’s initial lawsuit was 27 pages and contained 12 exhibits totaling over 150 pages supporting his claims. The defendants now hope to file written answers by Aug. 31.
Attorney Matthew W. Hoffman, the lead lawyer for Bloch, wrote that he did not object to giving the defendants the extra time, but noted his client wanted to ensure his request for a preliminary injunction and expedited hearing wasn’t delayed.
Bloch has filed multiple claims, including that his First Amendment rights have been violated by the four defendants.
He wants to be reinstated immediately so he and the school can be ready for the upcoming snowboard season. Bloch also seeks to have all records held by the defendants about the incident destroyed. He also wants the court to stop the defendants from enforcing unrealistic policies dealing with hazing, harassment and bullying, court papers show.
Hoffman had responded that he hoped the initial hearing would be held in September and offered several dates open for the lawyers in the case. Instead, the federal court set the hearing for Oct. 23.
Bloch claims his due process rights were trampled on. The lawsuit maintains Sousa never informed him of the allegations against him; that an investigation was underway; never discussed the policies that reportedly were violated, and never discussed any confidentiality rights.
Bloch also maintains that before he was terminated, he was never given proper notice, never explained his rights to appeal Sousa’s decision and never given a chance to present witnesses or evidence during the investigation.
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